Tuesday 24 October 2017

Formidable Baby Blacks await U-20s

Ireland U20 head coach Peter Malone. Photo: Matt Browne / Sportsfile
Ireland U20 head coach Peter Malone. Photo: Matt Browne / Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

After two bitterly disappointing defeats that ended Ireland's hopes of advancing in the Junior World Cup, the last team that Peter Malone's young charges would have wanted to face is New Zealand, but they must somehow pick themselves up for what is a mammoth task this afternoon.

Last year's historic victory over the Baby Blacks is now a distant memory and as they aim to exact revenge, their sights are firmly set on winning back their title.

Injuries have been cruel to Ireland, and that is not to mention the issues that went on behind the scenes prior to the squad travelling to Georgia but the fact remains, there are plenty of outstanding players in this squad who will go onto bigger and better things in the pro game. That Malone has rung the changes is as much a nod to next year as it is to the last two games, which are crucial if Ireland are to make sure of their place in next year's tournament.

Should Ireland lose both of their play-off games next week and finish 12th, they would be relegated to the lower World Rugby Trophy tournament. It would however take a complete disaster for that to happen but even still, Malone has carefully opted to rest the majority of the fit front-liners he has left.

Ringing the changes allows several of the U-19s a chance to gain precious experience - something that this year's group has desperately lacked.

Munster pair David McCarthy and Liam Coombes will win their first caps at this level in the centre and on the wing respectively.

Jack Kelly skippers the side from midfield, while out-half Conor Fitzgerald, who like Coombes, was only drafted into the squad earlier this week due to injury, is parachuted straight into the starting XV.

It is a huge ask for a depleted Ireland side to repeat last year's stunning win over New Zealand but more pressing concerns are next week's two play-off games.

Verdict: New Zealand

Ireland U-20 - A Tynan; M Silvester, J Kelly, D McCarthy, L Coombes; C Fitzgerald, J Stewart; J Conway, A Moloney, G McGrath; G Coombes, R Regan; M Rea, J Foley, S Masterson. Reps: R Kelleher, J Duggan, C Connolly, F Wycherley, C Doris, J Stafford, C Dean, C Frawley.

New Zealand U-20 - W Jordan; L Faingaanuku, B Ennor, O Leger, C Clarke; T Falcon, E Enari; E Lindenmuth, A Amua, A Fidow; I Walker-Leawere, S Caird; S Slade, T Christie, L Jacobsen. Reps: J Sauni, H Allan, P Rakete-Stones, A Choat, M Mikaele Tu'u, K Hauiti-Parapara, T Umaga-Jensen, J McKay.

Ireland U-20 v New Zealand U-20,

Live, eir Sport, 12.30

Irish Independent

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